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Billings schools considering online classes amid coronavirus shutdown

District officials also prepping for possible lengthy closure
Posted at 3:52 PM, Mar 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-16 18:02:51-04

Billings School District 2 officials are eyeing online classes during the Montana's two-week statewide shutdown of schools, while also preparing for the closure to last longer as the coronavirus outbreak spreads, Superintendent Greg Upham said Monday.

"I want everyone in our organization to be thinking short term and long term," Upham said Monday in an interview with Q2's Russ Riesinger.

Gov. Steve Bullock ordered a statewide shutdown of all Montana schools Sunday to limit large groups of people that help spread COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Six cases in Montana have been reported so far, including one in Yellowstone. The state expects to complete another 109 tests Monday, Bullock said in a press conference.

Upham said only building administrators and custodial staff came to work Monday, which is about 150 employees of the roughly 3,000 district wide. All teachers and other employees not working will be paid during the two-week shutdown under Bullock's order, although Upham said he's unsure whether that rule would be extended for a longer shutdown.

The district is planning for three tiers of class disruptions: Tier one is the current two weeks, tier two is a month-long closure and the tier three would mean no classes for the rest of the school year.

A big challenge with online classes is ensure "equitable education programs," he said. Teachers could start teaching online at any time, but not all students have the same access to the Internet, Upham said.

The school district is providing meal pickups for students at the following places and times:

  • Castle Rock 1441 Governors Blvd Breakfast: 7:45 – 8:30 Lunch: 11:00 – 12:30
  • Riverside 3700 Madison Breakfast: 7:45 – 8:3 0Lunch: 11:00 – 12:30
  • Lewis and Clark 1315 Lewis Ave Breakfast: 7:45 – 8:30 Lunch: 11:00 – 12:30

Upham advised to check out the district's web site for all updates on COVID-19.

He added that the district is taking precautions but avoiding acting out of fear.

"We're not panicking. We will take this one day at a time," he said.

Watch the full interview with Upham below:

Upham talks Billings school shutdown